Manjushree Bridashram

“It’s been a long journey with my family and elderly home,” says Manju didi. “I can’t live without my Aamas, and Aamas can’t live without me.”

Women's Elderly Home Kathmandu

Cheerful and witty, Manju didi is the founder of Manjushree Bridashram (elderly home for women in Nepal). With a big smile on her face, she says, “I’m happy with my work and what I’ve achieved. I started with five and now have a total of 13 women in the home.” The home shelters women who may lack support from their families, live on the streets, and have been reported by organizations and police stations. "COVID-19 has complicated things, and we were in need of support" said Manju didi. Adding, "We needed this food relief, it's given us room to breathe."

“We struggled a lot in our initial days. We didn’t have an established system and faced difficulties in operations and management,” she shares. She reminisces about the time when a Nepali woman questioned her ability to run the home. “I was young when I started the elderly home when a woman commented that I was too naïve to manage a place like this. It hurt my ego, but I took it as a challenge,” she laughs. After that, there was no looking back for her. “Today, we have 13 Aamas, but I want to expand my reach. However, we are running at a limited capacity right now. We have a small staff, and I want to make sure that each Aama is receiving equal attention, so I don’t want to overreach.”

COVID-19 shook Nepal, and physically, mentally, and financially took its toll on people. It was no different for Manju didi and the elderly home she manages. “One month after lockdown, we started to panic! Shops ran out of groceries, and we were running out of money,” she expresses. “It was a very challenging situation for us. It’s difficult to feed three mouths in such times, let alone feed my family of 13. I was scared.”

One month after the chaos, a club and local officials donated food relief packages, which lasted for about a month. And Grow's Project Bagmati in Nepal provided food relief packages, which will feed the big family for 2/3 months!

With food being the current priority for the Aamas, Manju didi also stated that they don’t have funds to cover medical expenses for the women at the elderly home. She shares, “Its not always easy here in Nepal, we have been struggling to collect money for hospital visits. It is due to their age; they demand more attention and are prone to sickness.”

She expresses her concerns stating that they have no separate fund or budget for medical expenses. All these years, they have been saving the food donation money and using it for hospital visits. “With the food packages provided, we can reallocate our budget to buy medicine for the women. But it’s difficult when we have to prioritize between food and medicine at the same time.” Adding more, she says, “Expenses are always going to be there. But it’s been a challenge to find the money for medical expenses.”

Despite all these challenges, it hasn’t stopped Manju didi from doing what she loves and looking forward to figuring out how to grow her family at the elderly home. “I get immense happiness with what I’m doing. Things have been uncertain and challenging, but it has given me the strength to fight it, to fight for my Aamas.” She adds, “I want to do more. There are still many Aamas on the streets, who have been forced out of their homes. If our financial situation improves, then I have plans to take in 5/6 Aamas.”

You could see the passion when she spoke about her family. “Thank you for helping me take care of my Aamas with these food relief packages. This is what I love doing, and I want to spread my happiness by adding more Aamas to my home. ”

Written by: Pooja Gurung